Monday, March 26, 2007

Ban harmless film, but won't ban harmful cancer sticks

There was no hesitation.

The government (call it by any name but it’s still a silly government agency) has irrevocably banned Amir Muhammad latest work, Apa Khabar Orang Kampung. His earlier film The Last Communist was also banned.

Good Lord (spelled with only one ‘L’), it’s 2007, and the communists had long since gone. Today we have films like Clint Eastwood’s Letters from Iwo Jima being shown. That’s a film portraying the human side of the inhuman WWII Jap military, the scourge of Asia and the evil brothel owner of their sex slaves, the euphemistic ‘comfort women’.

Bet you it won’t be banned from Malaysia, one of the Jap’s occupied territories where locals suffered enormously from the jackboots and samurai swords of the Jap Kempetai.

Yet our government, through their censors, still chases non-existent Chinese communists, while having accepted Malay members of the same Malayan Communist Party back into society as rehabilitated citizens.

The government censors rejected Amir’s appeal, reminding (or rather, threatening) him that under Section 23 (2) of the Film Censorship Act, any decision by the appeal committee is final.

Though Amir is disappointed by the silly-bugger behaviour of the Malaysian censors, he said that virulently anti-communist Singapore will screen his film next month, apart from the movie been booked for nine other festivals.

The censor said the “film is not approved for viewing”.

But compare the government’s care for the sensitivity of Malaysian citizens, as it claimed, with its care for the health of the same citizens.

By contrast to the unduly harsh action against Amir’s harmless film, the health ministry is soft on tobacco companies, those merchants of death and peddlers of cancer sticks.

The ministry thinks it may (what bloody wimps!) impose retail floor prices for cigarettes to discourage smoking and stop from luring buyers with cheaper products.

Health Minister Chua Soi Lek groaned and moaned as if his hands were tied, saying a price war had made cigarettes cheaper despite the annual increase of levies for tobacco and liquor.

Obviously manufacturers cut prices to boost sales. Afterall, the production cost is virtually zero when compared to the hundreds of billions it can harvest from suckers smokers.

He whined: "The ministry is disappointed by the actions of multinational tobacco companies, which of late have launched a price war to increase their sales. This goes against the government's wish to see a reduction in smoking among Malaysians."

"... disappointed by the actions of multinational tobacco companies ..." ? I am sick of his bullsh*t when such a health hazard exists to threaten, nay, imperil Malaysians, especially its youth!

Then he allowed us a glimpse of his action, namely that the government would continue to review taxes on tobacco products to ensure their prices remained high to reduce demand.

Wow, we should be grateful for such tough actions and such sense of priority for the benefit of the citizens!


  1. KT at HIS absolute sarcastical BEST!

    blimey if here's such a word as 'sarcastical' but again, KT leaves no udang(prawns) hidden behind the Mee!

  2. The government is addicted to the revenue from cigarete taxes. Plus the tobacco crop is an important income source for many rural farmers. The minister will rant and put up a realistic "wayang" but you can be sure they will never take steps which will cause really significant drops in tobacco demand.

    The other reality is cigarette makers still have plenty of profit margin which they can play with to cut prices. The raw material - tobacco - is relatively cheap, and production is done on incredibly efficient machines. You have to watch film footage of the manufacturing process to believe it.

  3. Hmmm, actually how cheap is the tobacco (unmanufactured)? Curious to know, I checked FAO stat to find out the price: In Malaysia (2003), 1 tonnes of tobacco cost RM14760, palm oil RM 1544 and rice RM 722. Cheap? May be, but compared to what?
    Production is done incredibly efficient on machines, yes I would imagine that, but then which product are we using daily is not resulted from machines?
    KTemoc, I am not sure the comparison between cigarette and film is an apple to apple comparison or not, even though I distaste both censorship and smoking.

  4. Ha, you're absolutely right. I've been saying this over and over again. We have no priorities.

    BTW,I've gone through 2 weeks without ciggs. Heh.

  5. Hi Mich,
    Sorry, I don't mean to start an exchange here, just wanted to follow up some good points you brought up. Tobacco is actually a high value crop, but only a few grams goes into a stick of cigarette. So it is cheap compared to the cost of buying a box of cigarettes.
    Almost everything we buy these days is manufactured by machines, but most items require some manual work and most production processes have built in inefficiencies. Cigarette manufacturing is done at very high speeds and totally untouched by human hands.
    I have a distaste for smoking, but as an engineer I truly admire the near perfection of the cigarette manufacturing process. These cigarette guys have been able to bring their production cost very close to zero.

  6. No government would actually want to ban the sale of tobacco... its a hidden passageway for them to grab large amounts of tax money. A pack of Camel UNfiltereds is RM4.80 duty free... the same pack is RM7.80 at your local mamak store.

    Although in the long term, you'll want to take into consideration the tremendous costs to the healthcare system and the workforce.

    kk46: I'm sure you are familiar with Reconstituted Sheet Tobacco... its basically tobacco dust from the production process swept up, and fused together with chemicals (same concept as particle board used in those cheap furniture in Tesco) and used to make lower-end ciggarette brands or as filler in the higher brands.

  7. Interestingly, imdb claims the satirical anti-smoking film about tobacco lobbyists "Thank You For Smoking" is BANninated in Malaysia:

    Can somebody clarify this? And if so, why?

  8. Thank You for Smoking
    According to the film's director, this film is neither pro- nor anti-smoking. In fact, the act of smoking is not shown anywhere in the movie by anyone. The closest the movie ever comes to depicting a character smoking is when Nick reaches into his shirt pocket for a cigarette. The pack, however, is empty. It is more so intended to attack political correctness. On The Charlie Rose Show, Reitman described it as a film with a libertarian message. This message is crystallized in the movie when the Senator asks Nick whether he would let Joey smoke when Joey reaches the age of consent, to which Nick replies that he would buy Joey his first pack on Joey's 18th birthday if he wanted a cigarette; this captures the libertarian idea of freedom to endanger one's own body, as long as the person is fully informed/educated of all the dangers. This and other scenes can also be interpreted as implicit controversial pro-smoking messages.

  9. Just finished the movie "Thank You for Smoking". Sure this movie kena banned one. The movie portrayed the smoking lobbyist as the smart guy (lawyer fella) and yet the anti-smoking crusader senator(William H Macy- how smart his image for his role can be?) looked so stupid. More importantly this movie is about the message of education of the harm rather than caricature of poison stickers that will make people decide for themselves: to smoke or not to smoke...